Monday, January 7, 2008

Terrorism blamed on cancellation of Paris-Dakar rally

It wasn’t the death of four French tourists in Mauritania that was responsible for the Amaury Sport Organization’s decision to cancel this year’s Paris-Dakar rally.

Rather, French intelligence sources told Reuters, the three-week off-road rally that draws nearly 500 competitors, was called off because the (presumably) Algerian-based Al Qaeda in the Maghreb made a specific threat of violence against it.

More from Reuters:

"Al Qaeda in the Maghreb has been instructed by Osama bin Laden and deputy Ayman al-Zawahri to step up attacks in the region," said Mohamed Darif, an expert in radical Islamist groups operating in the Maghreb.

Al Qaeda's global second-in-command called in September for Muslims to "cleanse" the Maghreb "of the children of France and Spain", and the attacks in Mauritania fuelled fears the group may try to extend the sphere of its operations southwards.

"We are the weak link in the chain compared to other Maghreb countries who have put lots of resources into fighting al Qaeda," said a Mauritanian sociologist who declined to be named.

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